Or, perhaps: how do I develop a cultivar at all?

First off, my knowledge and experience on the subject is close to nil. I've got a decent enough knowledge of gardening concepts, but have done precious little plant breeding, and nearly everything I know about genetics comes from the reptile hobby and the breeding of various morphs (also haven't done any of that).

But I wanted to try my hand at plant breeding - at least, get started somewhere.

I've decided to go for something simple - a dandelion. Hardy, easy to grow, flowers quick and I know will definitely reproduce for me. Contamination from external sources might be an issue but there's several easy fixes for that. I could probably wait around and inbreed them until some funny traits pop up but for now I want to try some obvious changes - wider leaves, bigger flower, maybe both.

All I (think I) know is that I'll have to keep track of my individuals and their ancestry and select for traits based on their current expression and genetic pedigree. On the surface that sounds pretty simple but I don't know the details of the execution. Is there a specific way plant breeders do it? Software that would make the management easier?

I tried looking this up, but Google isn't very extensive on this subject. Any advice or resources that can get me started would be greatly appreciated.

  • $\begingroup$ You have made quite unlucky choice by picking dandelion. Most dandelions reproduce by apomixis. The seeds produced (without polination) are clones of mother plant. It would be hard (if its even possible) to force them to cross, which puts many classical breeding techniques out of your reach. $\endgroup$
    – BagiM
    Mar 16 '19 at 9:00
  • $\begingroup$ @BagiM Wow, didn't know that. I know there are already dandelion cultivars which is why I thought it would be possible. Are there any other simple plants you'd recommend? $\endgroup$ Mar 16 '19 at 9:17
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    $\begingroup$ Creation of cultivars of species that reproduces only vegetatively or through apomixis is possible by accumulation desired mutations (mutagenesis). What you cannot do is cross two plants with desired traits and create homozygots or double mutants. You would have to start with cultivar closest to what you want and try to mutate it then pick one plant with best properties and try to mutate it further. What you also cannot do is to segregate undesired trait from desirable one. $\endgroup$
    – BagiM
    Mar 17 '19 at 6:45
  • $\begingroup$ ... It is hard to tell you which plant to choose. It depends on what you want to do. I would recommend to read as much as possible on plant genetics and specific genetics of plant you choose. Breeding is application of the genetics theory and is included in some plant genetics textbooks. Once you are well versed in plant genetics it will be clear to you what you can do, what outcomes to expect and you will be able make this decision for yourself. $\endgroup$
    – BagiM
    Mar 17 '19 at 7:00
  • $\begingroup$ @BagiM Thanks. I'll definitely keep trying to study plant genetics. As for dandelions I don't think it's a complete loss - just a matter of making sure I have diploid plants. The cultivars I have came from Europe, which even though they're still T. officinale much of the dandelion population is diploid (except for Northern Europe). I just want something quick and easy to breed so I can easy tell if I'm doing something right or not. $\endgroup$ Mar 17 '19 at 14:35

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